Bubbles are a wonderful thing for parents and educators to have on hand. First of all, they’re nearly foolproof when it comes to grabbing kids’ attention. Chasing bubbles can get kids up and moving, expending their boundless energy on a fun and focused task. Since bubbles float on the breeze, they’re also a great way to introduce the idea of wind and air during a science lesson.
Overall, bubbles offer a fun way to teach kids important physics concepts they’ll build on later in their educational journey. Here’s more on how to maximize the learning and fun with bubble-based activities.
Exploring the Concept of Surface Tension
The Indianapolis Public Library offers up a simple way to use bubbles to teach kids about the concept of surface tension — in which liquid molecules come together in a process known as cohesion. This concept explains the round shape of bubbles and how they rest on flat surfaces when they land.
One fun, hands-on way to watch surface tension in action is to concoct a variety of soap mixtures, then to study the effects on the size, shape and behavior of the bubbles.
Blowing Bubbles as a Science Experiment
As Tinkergarten points out, blowing bubbles can double as a way to enjoy miniature science experiments appropriate for participants of varying ages — from simpler bubble activities for toddlers all the way up to elementary-school aged kiddos.
Ask kids to make hypotheses about what they will think will happen when you change up variables — like using a different wand or bubble formula.
Here are some other prompts to try:
- What parts of our bodies can we use to pop bubbles?
- What happens when you try to catch a bubble?
- What would we need to do to make a little bubble? How about a huge bubble?
Another exciting component to this activity can be guiding little learners as they fashion their very own bubble wands out of natural materials. This physics lesson is sure to get them thinking critically, moving around actively and enjoying lots of laughs.
Try to Create Even More Bubble Shapes
Another way to explore the physical properties of bubbles is to create a variety of wands — especially those falling outside the classic circle shape.
According to the Wonders of Physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, materials like wire, string, toothpicks and modeling clay can help little learners make some very interesting shapes — even getting as complex as prisms and cubes.
Then a simple bucket full of glycerin mix allows young scientists to test out their creations and witness the magic unfold. Whereas bubbles always become a sphere when they’re floating through the air, the soap mixture may fill the outline of the homemade bubble wands instead.
As always, ask kiddos what they think will happen beforehand, then discuss what actually does happen and why.
The most important thing to remember when teaching kids about physics? Keep it fun and accessible. Of course, kids are going to primarily be excited about seeing bubbles expand, pop and float through the air.
Even when it seems like kids are “just playing” they are actually learning and growing in amazing ways. For instance, as the Colorado Department of Education notes, even the simple act of blowing bubbles helps kids understand cause and effect — something that introduces a crucial STEM concept and helps refine their understanding of the world.
How you go about teaching kids about physics depends on their age, but using bubbles as a tool is an exciting way to illustrate concepts like surface tension and gravity. Playing with bubbles can also help kids move their bodies, expand their vocabularies and expand their curiosities about the way things work.